Bridport (UK Parliament constituency)
|Former Borough constituency
for the House of Commons
|Number of members||two (1295-1868); one (1868-1885)|
Bridport was a parliamentary borough in Dorset, which elected two Members of Parliament (MP) to the House of Commons from 1295 until 1868, and then one member from 1868 until 1885, when the borough was abolished.
Bridport was continuously represented in Parliament from the first. The medieval borough consisted of the parish of Bridport, a small port and market town, where the main economic interests were sailcloth and rope-making, as well as some fishing. (For some time in the 16th century, the town had a monopoly of making all cordage for the navy.) By 1831, the population of the borough was 4,242, and the town contained 678 houses.
The right to vote was at one period reserved to the town corporation (consisting of two bailiffs and 13 "capital burgesses"), but from 1628 it was exercised by all inhabitant householders paying scot and lot. This was a relatively liberal franchise for the period but nevertheless meant that only a fraction of the townsmen could vote: in 1806, the general election at which Bridport had the highest turnout in the last few years before the Reform Act, a total of 260 residents voted.
Bridport never reached the status of a pocket borough with an openly-recognised "patron": the voters retained their freedom of choice and generally expected to extort a price for their votes, so much so that Oldfield recorded of one election in the early 19th century that "several candidates left them at the last election, in consequence of their demanding payment beforehand". Nevertheless, at various periods the borough came under the influence of local grandees and would usually return at least one of their nominees as MPs: the Russells (Dukes of Bedford) in the Elizabethan period and the Sturts in the latter half of the 18th century could normally rely on choosing one member. In 1572 the then Earl of Bedford made use of this influence to have his oldest son elected in defiance of the convention that the heirs of peers could not be members of the House of Commons; the only previous instance had been that of the Earl himself, who had remained an MP when he became heir to the Earldom in 1555. By vote of the House, the young Lord Russell was allowed to keep his seat for Bridport, and the precedent allowed other peers' heirs to sit from that point onwards.
Bridport retained both its seats under the Reform Act, the boundaries being extended to give it the requisite population - parts of the neighbouring parishes of Bradpole, Allington and Waldich, as well as Bridport Harbour, were brought in, increasing the population to about 6,000; in the election of 1832, the first after Reform, the registered electorate was 425. However, the constituency was too small to survive for long. One of its members was removed after election of 1868 by the Second Reform Act; and the borough was abolished altogether in 1885, the town being incorporated into the Western Dorset county division.
Members of Parliament
- Constituency created (1295)
|1868||Thomas Alexander Mitchell||Liberal|
|1875 by-election||Pandeli Ralli||Liberal|
- "Bridport". History of Parliament online. Retrieved 2012-10-27.
- "FORD, Simon atte, of Bridport, Dorset.". History of Parliament Online. Retrieved 2012-10-27.
- Sir Lewis Dyve petitioned against the result. Cobbett records Dyve as MP from 1640, and the Dictionary of National Biography has Hill filling the vacancy in 1645; however Brunton & Pennington list Hill as the MP from 1640. The House of Commons Journals show Dyve was a petitioner rather than MP, and that Hill was an MP by 1643 at the latest
- Strangeways was initially declared elected, but on petition it was found that some unqualified voters had been admitted while other qualified voters had had their votes refused, and Walter was declared duly elected in Strangways' place
- Bowles was re-elected in 1727 but was also elected for Bewdley, which he chose to represent, and did not sit again for Bridport
- Pelham was also elected for Newark, which he chose to represent, and never sat for Bridport
- Cochrane resigned to seek re-election as a supporter of free trade, and a by-election was held on 7 March 1846. Cochrane was initially declared re-elected by a majority of 1 vote, but on petition his election was declared void and after scrutiny of the votes Romilly was declared duly elected.
- Robert Beatson, "A Chronological Register of Both Houses of Parliament" (London: Longman, Hurst, Res & Orme, 1807) 
- D Brunton & D H Pennington, Members of the Long Parliament (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1954)
- Concise Dictionary of National Biography (1930)
- F W S Craig, "British Parliamentary Election Results 1832-1885" (2nd edition, Aldershot: Parliamentary Research Services, 1989)
- Cobbett's Parliamentary history of England, from the Norman Conquest in 1066 to the year 1803 (London: Thomas Hansard, 1808) 
- J. E. Neale, The Elizabethan House of Commons (London: Jonathan Cape, 1949)
- T. H. B. Oldfield, The Representative History of Great Britain and Ireland (London: Baldwin, Cradock & Joy, 1816)
- J Holladay Philbin, Parliamentary Representation 1832 - England and Wales (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1965)
- Edward Porritt and Annie G Porritt, The Unreformed House of Commons (Cambridge University Press, 1903)
- Willis, Browne (1750). Notitia Parliamentaria, Part II: A Series or Lists of the Representatives in the several Parliaments held from the Reformation 1541, to the Restoration 1660 ... London. p. 1.
- Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "B" (part 5)[self-published source][better source needed]